Recently an Israeli teacher killed a student. Precisely, Rabbi Bar-On shot a Palestinian student of Bir Zeit University who brandished a knife at him. What really bothered me was the universally gleeful response of Israeli media. The rabbi killed an attacker, which is good, but it cannot be a matter of joy. There are tremendous issues boiling behind the incident.

The Palestinian kid was not a professional terrorist, even though a Fatah-Al Aqsa offshoot claimed him as a member of their terrorist organization. The kid went for essentially a suicide mission: he did not try to knife down Jews in Tel Aviv where he would merely be arrested, but at a junction near Shilo, in the dreaded “territories” where many Jewish males are armed, and someone would certainly kill the Palestinian. Yet he mustered only two knives. He was unfamiliar with this weapon and frightened, shaking. The Arab student was willing to sacrifice his life to do minimal damage to Jews.

He was not a stereotypical Palestinian terrorist. We are dealing here with the example of popular war. Palestinian society breeds hatred of “Zionist occupiers,” and Palestinian universities provide ample grounds for nationalist propaganda. It is not incitement, but realistic and truthful nationalist education.

Here lies the nightmare of primitive rationalism: Jews and Arabs are both right. Both defend their religious, nationalist, and homestead rights to the land. Arguing the fine points is senseless: the Palestinians believe that they are a nation, and Jews won’t be able to convince them otherwise. There can be no compromise; people don’t compromise over their basic religious and national rights, not if they want to remain a self-respecting religious community or a nation. Those Jews who are looking to compromise do so because they don’t believe they have any rights here: assimilated atheists, what do they have to do with the Holy Land?

Palestinian Arabs, on the contrary, believe in their rights. If Jews abandoned to them Hebron and Schem, the ancient Jewish cities, how much more do the Zionists owe them Haifa and Jaffa, towns that originally had Arab majorities? Jews act like the classic People of the Sea, foreign marauders who settled the shores of Canaan time and again without venturing deep into the hilly country. If Judea is not Jewish, then what rights do the Jews possibly have to any other place in Palestine?

In real life, situations often arise in which both conflicting parties are right. When the contended issues are critical to the opponents, no mild solution is possible. Olmert, Barak, Peres, and Netanyahu can give away Judea and Samaria to the Arabs, but should a decent Jewish leader arise he will drive the Arabs out.
Fatah,Hamas, and PIJ can accept Israel, but should a more militant Palestinian leader arise, they will restart terrorism against Jews. And millions of Arabs living in Israel will help them.